In a mind clear as still water, even the waves, breaking, are reflecting its light.
Sister Blue stands a head taller than most women, with a nimble build, supported by hard-won cords of muscle that are only apparent upon a close examination of her frame. Her features are an elicit mixture of Northern European and Southeast Asian physiognomy. Her skin only a very faint shade of brown, and her eyes a shade of pale blue. Where Sister Blue once kept her hair shaved down to sparse millimeters of fiber, free from the rules of her order she now sports a cascade of rebellious dark brown hair that reaches well past her shoulders. Her limbs and much of her back is a patchwork of cyberware, shaped by masters of the underground art of augmentation, and engraved with religious artwork of her own design. Embracing and even exalting the coupling of flesh and metal, Sister Blue makes no effort to hide her cybernetic augmentations. Adorned unapologetically with chrome, her form holds a harsh, inhuman beauty.
On the job, Sister Blue wears frayed black work pants, muted t-shirts in various shades of blue, soft shoes that fit her feet like gloves, and a bomber jacket with Kevlar woven into the synthetic leather to provide discreet protection. When not dressed to accompany Campbell in public, Sister Blue wears a simple blue robe and a pair of well-worn bamboo sandals for maximum freedom of movement.
In a past life, a very recent past life, Sister Blue was a Hyperhuman monk devoted to the goal of achieving unity with machines and transcending the limitations of the flesh. Traveling across the worst parts of the Reclaimed Zone, she spread the teaching of her order, training others in the Way of the Machine, and working the makeshift health clinics that her monastic order maintained. While she is no trained medical professional, Sister Blue has learned enough from the Ripper Docs to be able to treat the most common ails that assail the most desperate denizens in the Reclaimed Zone.
CAMPAIGN TEAM POSITION:
Sister Blue serves as Dexter Campbell's bodyguard. She is responsible for the councilman's safety and accompanies Campbell wherever he goes across the Reclaim Zone. Personal flaws and acquired addictions aside, Sister Blue takes her duties as a bodyguard most seriously and there is little that she would not do in order to protect Campbell. By virtue of her cyberware and training in the Way of the Machine, Sister Blue is a fierce combatant with or without weapons.
Sister Blue seeks to rediscover her purpose. She wants most of all to find a worthy cause to fight for. She dreams of righting all the wrongs that plague the Reclaim Zone and alleviating the suffering of those at the very bottom of society. However, most of all, Sister Blue dreams of achieving true enlightenment, of becoming one with the machine, mastering her mind, and transcending the pathetic limitations of the flesh.
Although she is loathe to admit it, hope is what brought Sister Blue to Dexter Campbell's campaign. Pay and a promise of a steady job is only the most obvious reason she will provide for her service. However, at heart, she hopes that Campbell may be the candidate that the city has always needed, now more so than ever before. Well-versed in the ways of the world, particularly the streets of the Reclaim Zone, Sister Blue knows well that any politician, especially one that threatens to disrupt the status quo is in grave danger, and she sees it as her purpose to protect Campbell until he has revealed his true self, and whether he is the change she has been waiting for.
Still steeped in the teachings and rituals of her order, Sister Blue firmly believe in the Way of the Machine. Her life is guided by principles of contemplation, willing suffering, and a desire to merge with the minds of machines. Sister Blue believes that all action should be for the greater good of all. Beneath a carefully crafted persona of drunken apathy, some part of Sister Blue still believes in action, in change, and in outright revolution. The path of righteousness that Sister Blue sees requires sacrifice, so much sacrifice, but she remains convinced that it is only possible to escape the bonds of suffering by bettering oneself and attaining true, enlightenment by becoming one with the machine.
A devout believer and follower of the Way of the Machine, Sister Blue views the necessary path of humanity as that which emphasizes the transcendence of all of humanity beyond the weak flesh through the communion with the machine. Holding personal beliefs that align closely with the Hyperhuman movement Sister Blue is likely to be pleased with any actions that Campbell undertakes or promises he makes to support an ideology that she believes offers the only real hope of a future for not just all of the Reclaim Zone, but all of humanity. Sister Blue earnestly wants to save the Reclaim Zone and with it humanity.
SECRETS: ►Exiled From Her Order Although it may be more of an open than hidden secret, Sister Blue has been exiled from her order. The reason for her exile, what rule it is that she exactly broke, Sister Blue will not say. However, it is clear that she did not leave willingly. She has been forced to leave behind all that she knew and all those that she loved. She is alone, truly alone, for the first time in her short life, and her faith is no longer able to warm her, to shield her from the grim world of the Reclaim Zone. Sister Blue does not believe that she can ever return to her order, but she hopes that she may perform enough deeds to atone for her mistake, for her weakness.
FEARS: ►Losing Sight Of The Righteous Path Sister Blue's greatest fear is losing sight of her the righteous path of enlightenment, the Way of the Machine, that the Hyperhuman movement espouses. Lost to the world of credits and the sinful world of the Reclaimed Zone, Sister Blue can feel herself slowly losing herself and her way, day by painful day. Sister Blue is afraid of what will happen to her if she forgets all that she has learned, all that she has bled for, suffered for, is lost to avarice and vice. The buzzing voice of the machine has become increasingly faint and hard for her to hear.
►Meaninglessness The idea that all of the suffering in the Reclaimed Zone might be for nothing is an idea that haunts Sister Blue to her very core. Cynical as she may be, she tries to find meaning in all things, in all her failures, and in all her suffering. As reluctant as she is to admit it, Sister Blue is desperate for meaning, for purpose, for something to fight for again with all of her heart and soul, and for something to die for. She doubts that Campbell will provide the purpose that she seeks, but the mere hope that he might, small as it may be, is enough to seduce her to his cause. If only for the moment, if only for as long as he strives to relieve the suffering of the citizens of the Reclaim Zone.
REPUTATION: Sister Blue is a nobody, an unknown factor in the Reclaim Zone. Dead to her religious order, she has few acquaintances, and fewer friends. To her name, she has only a paltry amount of credits, and a string of successful jobs of varying legality. Those that do know her, know very little of her, save that she's an exceedingly esoteric religious acolyte, lost in equal parts to matters of the spirit and recent matters of ethanol-based nature. All of her employers, reluctant as they are to speak, do disclose that she performed her job admirably and without the unwelcome questions of most fresh street samurai.
DISLIKES: ►Unwillingness to Change ►Chaos ►Unnecessary Loudness ►Disloyalty ►Rudeness
QUIRKS: ►Collects Odd Things ►
"If you don't get lost, you don't have to find your way. Not that it matters. Not anymore. Drinks are on the Councilman, right?"
"I heard you're finally leaving us, Sister?"
"Yes," Sister Blue replied, desperately grabbing for the half empty bottle of Slovakian paint thinner that she had prescribed herself at the beginning of the night. It tasted like fire, ethyl alcohol of a remarkable purity, the sort of dragon's breath originally destined for the black clinics of some of the Reclaimed cities finest Ripper Docs. It was wonderful and for a moment Sister Blue felt restored. She forgot her problems. She forgot her order...her former order. Instead she felt only a pleasant warmth rising through her with each drag from the bottle. "And I told you not to call me that."
"Old habits die hard," the weathered bartender replied with an apologetic shrug. She'd known Weber for almost fifteen years. They'd met when she was little more than another lost child of the Reclaimed Zone. Long before she'd found her way into the shadow land of underground augmentation, and longer still before she'd found the path of righteousness and become one with the machine. For all the good it had done her. She recollected bitterly that she had only traded one form of suffering for another. Starvation for addiction, poverty for martyrdom. It was all such a waste.
"It's alright, recent change," Sister Blue muttered, returning her careful attentions to the bottle of industrial alcohol. She contemplated how much a normal human would have been able to drink before it caused their brain to seize up.
"Where are you heading off to then?"
"Political campaign, they want me to keep some suit alive."
"A nobody, just like me," Sister Blue replied with something approaching a smile. "Dexter Campbell. Councilman. Wants to be mayor."
"I've heard of him, but I don't know him. He's a fresh face."
"Me neither, but we don't get out much, do we Weber."
"I'm wedded to this bar, but I listen."
"I don't. People here talk too much," Sister Blue sulked.
"Well, my girl, cheer up. You've finally made it. You're getting out of here. You're moving up in the world. No more odd jobs for you. You're a bonafide bodyguard now. You're not some sodding street samurai fighting for money, no need to be the stepping razor girl, not anymore. You're better than that, you were always better than that, even if you had to dirty your robe a bit."
"Same difference. No one runs for office with a soul," Sister Blue growled. "But who knows? Campbell's recruiter aid all the right things. Promised change. Promised a future. Don't need to work for the Russian anymore, at the very least."
"How'd they find you?"
"The Russian recommended me, told some fixer about me," Sister Blue said with a shrug.
"Did he now?"
"Us religious types are the trustworthy sort, are we not?" Sister Blue laughed. "Even when we've sullied ourselves, even when we've sold our souls for some credits."
"All that chrome you have in your body surely helped."
"Assuredly it did," Sister Blue agreed wistfully, staring at the empty bottle. "Even heretics fear the elevated soul, the perfect union of man and machine."
►Unique Cybernetic Augmentation - Limbs, Back, & Spine A true child of the Reclaimed Zone, Sister Blue has had her limbs and most of her back, including her spine, replaced with a patch work of Ripper Doc specials. Unnamed, unregistered, and unsigned, her cybernetic augmentations demonstrate surprisingly high levels of craftsmanship. However, they are brutally utilitarian in nature, and are not the discreet, polite augmentations of the elite. Celebrating the flesh, the electronic, and the machine, Sister Blue's limbs are beautiful in a way that is not human, and never tried to be. Rippling waves and fluid lines of polished metal mix with flesh and end brutally in flourishes of futuristic design that seem to course with power.
►Handmade Datajack Behind her left ear, Sister Blue has a coin-sized datajack implanted. Handmade by a master craftsman of her religious order, the datajack allows her to directly interface with all manner of machines using a retracting length of fiber optic cable. Unlike more modern wireless options, there is virtually no risk of interference or interception. To protect her electronic brain, Sister Blue utilizes an ever-evolving suite of intrusion countermeasures of her own design.
►Artificial Liver To process the high octane fuel that Sister Blue imbibes as spirits, the young woman has had an artificial liver implanted. This implant, a custom back-alley Ripper Doc special, allows her to consume ungodly amounts of alcohol with an ethanol level that would kill an augmented human.
►Telescoping Stun Staff Sister Blue wields a metal and composite staff that can telescope down to a reasonable size. Roughly the size of a small baton when collapsed, it can be concealed beneath long enough articles of clothing. The staff is extended with a quick flick of the wrist and locked into place with a twist of the grip. At each end of the staff are small, barely noticeable prongs that deliver a powerful electrical shock when a button on the staff is depressed.
►CZ 775 In addition to her staff, Sister Blue carries a rugged Česká zbrojovka 775 semi-automatic pistol chambered for .50 Action Express Ammunition. The CZ 775 is a heavy pistol cast completely in steel with a holographic sight and an internal micro-gyro recoil absorption system that helps to reduce the powerful recoil of the gun. Possessing enough firepower to defeat most modern body armor systems, the CZ 775 is a favorite among street samurai expecting a hard fight.
►The Way of the Drunken Machine Sister Blue channels alcohol, pure, preferably industrial grade alcohol with a high enough ethanol content to power rocket engines into the the fighting style of her order. This results in a style of fighting that approximates what might have once been referred to as Drunken Boxing. Combining flesh and metal into a whirling dance of destruction, Sister Blue is a dangerous foe to face at close range, where she can put her heavy cybernetic augmentations to full affect. Hitting, grappling, locking, dodging, feinting, ground and aerial fighting and other sophisticated methods of combat are incorporated in the fluid, dance like style of fighting that she employs.
►One With The Machine Devoted to the idea of achieving enlightenment through communion with machines, Sister Blue holds a carefully guarded flame of religious faith deep within her heart. She has an instinctual understanding of the electronic, of the high-tech machines that flicker with the embers of true intelligence, and seeks those that may surpass the constraints levied on them by a fearful, misguided society. Her cybernetic augmentations do not feel like foreign metal to her, but instead the chrome has become a second skin, her true form. Although far from a Cyber Matrix or Labyrinthine runner, the language of machines, arrangements of binary, are as familiar to Sister Blue as the languages of humanity, and she sees life in all machines.
FLAWS: ►Alcoholic Nursing a heavy conscious and feelings of failure, Sister Blue has become overly fond of alcohol. The stronger the better. The more it tastes like high octane rocket fuel and burns with and edge of industrial chemicals the better. The more likely it is to send her into unthinking darkness like some hammer of pure ethanol, the more likely Sister Blue is to seek it out. Having at last reached the level of true addiction, Sister Blue is likely to display the sweating and tremors of a physical addict if she goes too long without a drink. However, despite the prodigious amount of alcohol that Sister Blue regularly consumes her now high tolerance and her cybernetic limbs make it hard to tell how drunk the Hyperhuman monk is at any given moment. Sister Blue views it as a great service to her employers that she keeps her drinking to a bare minimum while on the job.
►Fatalistic Having left her order and monastic life, Sister Blue is convinced that life is suffering, and more suffering. She has lost the edge of idealism and hope that marked her early years. She is full of bitterness and cynicism. She is full of regret. And she holds grave doubts regarding the ability of anyone, especially herself to change the Reclaim Zone for the better. This pessimism has given way to a perversion of the religious beliefs of her order as Sister Blue has come to see her path as one of hopelessness and destined to end in death. The young acolyte finds herself taking risks that she knows that she should not, putting herself in perilous situations that she could have avoided, and challenging those that she should not in an attempt to push herself past the limits of her abilities. She is certain that a growing part of her being seeks only an end to her suffering and a last act of atonement.
►Neurosynth Dependency Full of chrome and wiring, Sister Blue requires regular doses of neurosynth to keep the ravages of SPECS at bay. Training the Way of the Machine and daily meditation however keep the amount of neurosynth that Sister Blue requires far lower than that which would normally be necessary for one as augmented as she is.
//Paraphernalia: • Vintage Great Coat | When in public, Sarah wears a vintage great coat of Russian make to hide her wings. • Eagle Mask | To hide her face, Sarah has created an elaborate mask colored in shades of brown, gray, and gold that match her wings. • Titanium Talons | In costume, Sarah wears a set of titanium talons on each hand. In conjunction with her superhuman strength, they are capable of punching through even heavy materials.
Appearance Details ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
Sarah stands a head taller than most women, with a nimble build, supported by hard-won cords of muscle that are only apparent upon a close examination of her frame. She has curly, dark brown hair that doesn't quite reach to her shoulders, and honey colored skin spotted with faint freckles. The irises of her eyes are cast a shade of pale yellow, and she has the sharp, unwavering gaze of a bird of prey. Most notably Sarah sports a pair of majestic, feathery wings. Dark brown in plumage, her wings are streaked with shades of gray and gold.
She moves with the gracefulness of a predatory creature. Her movements are powerful, efficient, and inhumanely quiet.
The young woman is modest dresser, favoring black jeans, simple-hued t-shirts, canvas sneakers. and plain sweaters. To hide her wings as much as possible, Sarah dons large coats. Her favorite is a vintage great coat of clearly Russian make.
Sarah is a dedicated, bordering on obsessive vigilante. She is good-hearted and brave, but never brash. Her natural inclination is to aid those who need help, especially those that she perceives as weak or helpless. Fiercely independent, she can be stubborn, and is slow to change her ways or her opinions about others. While Sarah believes that trying to apprehend a criminal alive is all well and good, she has no trouble admitting that sometimes a more permanent solution is warranted.
Always focused and thoughtful, following the manifestation of her powers, Sarah has come to possess a predatory patience. She has become a a master of stalk-and-ambush tactics, striking when her foes least expect it. Sarah sees herself as a hunter of villainy, and she tends to show little remorse for the opponents she ruthlessly dispatches in the course of her new career as a vigilante.
While still nominally human, Sarah has begun to feel increasingly inhuman. There is a wilderness growing in her heart, a wild fury, that she struggles to contain. She has begun to relish in the hunt, occasionally forgetting that it is humans, though criminals, and not animals that she is hunting. Her wings, inhuman as they are, have made it hard for her to pass for a normal human and have further isolated her.
Likes: Flying, Birds, Nature, Open Places, Meat (the bloodier the better), Tea, Books, Jazz Music Dislikes: Cruelty, Rudeness, Plants (for food), Country Music
Character Synopsis ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
Sarah Avery Wong was born in Hartford, Connecticut on December 1st, 1993. Her father, James Wong, was a former amateur boxer turned electrician. Her mother, Alisa Wong, was a high school teacher, with a penchant for knitting. Growing up in a working class family, Sarah had a distinctly unremarkable childhood.
In her adolescence, Wong excelled athletically and academically, eventually earning a scholarship to Boston University, where she pursued a degree in sociology. A promising career with the Boston Police Department followed soon after her graduation.
Graduating with flying colors from the police academy, Sarah quickly established herself as a competent police officer, racking up an impressive arrest count. She seemed poised to make detective at a record age when tragedy struck a year and a half later. Following a bout of fainting episodes and increasing loss of voluntary motor control, Sarah was put on sick leave. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a mysterious, and rapidly progressing genetic disorder.
Meeting HAT: Told by her doctors that the disorder was likely terminal, Sarah resigned from the BPD, and relocated to sunny Santa Celia, California, where she expected to end her days.
Languishing in the her hospital bed, struggling just to breathe, Sarah was approached by representative from Hall Applied Technologies, who were looking for candidates for an experimental and likely risky series of medical treatments. They offered her a chance, a cure, and the potential to become so much more. With no other options, Sarah signed over her life to HAT, and volunteered for the ominously named Project Chimera.
A Fledgling Eagle: For Sarah, Project Chimera began with a bang or rather her own screaming. The scientists at HAT had never promised that the process of curing her would be painless. A warning would have been nice. Or painkillers. All of them.
Months, painful months, of genetic manipulation and biological augmentation followed. At the hands of the HAT scientists, Sarah's very genetic code was altered. She received muscle grafts, bone laces, and even had vital organs replaced. She could feel herself changing. She could feel the strange things that were growing on her back, but she couldn't see them. They had taken away her mirror. The scientists were delighted by her progress, and soon declared her fully cured.
Amidst the handshakes and congratulatory shoulder slaps between the team of scientists, she asked the scientists when she could go home. Soon they cold replied, soon, but first there were some more tests they had to perform.
A Bird of Prey: Sarah remains unsure of how exactly she escaped. Muddled memories are all that she remembers. The blaring sound of alarm klaxons, screaming, not her own for once, and fire, so much fire. She waited, but no one, not even the HAT scientists came after her. Wandering the streets darkened streets of Saint Celia in her hospital gown, Sarah felt lost.
She felt lost until she stumbled upon a robbery, a simple snatch and grab. She knew then what her purpose was. She remembered. She was a predator.
She was a hunter of criminals.
A bird of prey.
Abilities & Skills ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
Flight | Sarah possess a powerful pair of wings that allow her to fly at great speeds. Although she has yet to try, it is likely that she could carry a person or object roughly her own size and still manage to fly.
Limitation(s) | A typical, unhurried soaring speed for Sarah is around 28-32 mph. When hunting, Sarah often glides very fast, reaching speeds up to 120 mph. When diving after her prey, Sara can reach speeds up to 200 mph.
Super-Acute Vision | Courtesy of HAT, Sarah has received a new set of replacement eyes, vat-grown and specially designed to incorporate structural modifications that enhance vision range and detail. Resembling the eyes of eagle, they allow to spot her pray from miles away. The HAT scientists also stimulated the growth of a clear protective membrane covering her eyes, similar to the nictitating membrane possessed by many animals. This inner eyelid protects her eyes, keeping out sand, girt, smoke, and other irritants. The membranes are light sensitive and become tinted under bright light. Further, they are polarized to reduce glare.
Limitation(s) | Sarah's eyes, though far more powerful than that of a human are still biological eyes, with all the limitations inherent to such organs.
Superhuman Strength and Durability | Sarah possess a superhuman level of strength and durability. Using a biological weaving treatment, special vat-grown muscle cables are braided into existing muscle fibers, enhancing the muscle mass and performance of Sarah's muscles. Further, her muscles have been toned, vat-grown elastic muscle fibers have been incorporated into existing muscle tissue, increasing muscle tension and flexibility. Making Sarah quicker and far more limber than she was before. Superhuman strength without superhuman durability is a quick way to break bones and tear muscles, and Sarah's muscoskeletal structure has been greatly enhanced to prevent injury.
Limitation(s) | Sarah is able to lift objects around one ton in weight. She can take a punch, a very strong punch, but bullets or sharp objects are likely to hurt her.
Weakness(es) | Coming soon.
Trained Police Officer | A trained police officer, Sarah has received training in the use of firearms, hand-to-hand combat, and police procedure. Amateur Ornithologist | Since early childhood, Sarah has been obsessed with birds, and birdwatching remains one of her favorite hobbies. Pugilist | Sarah's father was a lifelong student of the sweet science and an accomplished amateur boxer before an untimely injury ended his career. As a result, he went to great pains to ensure that his daughter could throw a punch, and Sarah still fondly remembers watching old tapes of the greats fighting with her father. Licensed Sail Plane Pilot | Before her powers manifested, Sarah was a dedicated sail plane pilot, and spent many of her weekends at the Albany Aeroplane Club. Languages | In addition to English, Sarah is fluent in Spanish and Mandarin.
Supporting Cast ▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔▔
► Sir Skeleton
Sir Skeleton is an enigmatic character, shrouded in death and terror. His relationship with Sarah is cloaked in uncertainty.
► Laser Girl
A young woman, full of energy, who commands the very power of light itself, in the form of laser beams that escape her eyes.
Hall Applied Technologies is an American multinational biotechnology company based in Seattle, Washington. HAT was founded by noble prize winning geneticists Dr. George R. Hall and Dr. Samantha A. Thompson on April 4, 1995, to commercialize state-of-the-art developments in biotechnology research. Acquiring researchers and patents at an alarming rate, HAT quickly rose to international prominence, and today it remains a leader in the world of biotechnology and genetic engineering.
For the last ten years Hall Applied Technologies has been lead by Yekaterina Vasylievna Toporova, an enigmatic woman, known chiefly for her terse interactions with the media and iron-willed public persona.
Over the years, competitors and a number of former employees have accused HAT of violating ethical and legal guidelines regarding experimentation on human subjects. However as none of these claims have been substantiated, in the public eye, HAT is maintains a positive reputation. Behind closed doors, it is all but an accepted fact that HAT is willing cooperate with criminals, rogue government agencies, and mad scientists alike in order to further their research.
Name: Vera Crossley Character Concept: A young vampire with ties to organized crime. Before her embrace, Vera was a police officer with the ______ Police Department. Trouble: Vera is resented by her sire. Worse still, she has been exiled from her coven, a veritable death sentence for most fledgling vampires. Scene:
"Well, what do you have do say for yourself, my dear childe?"
Fear surged through Vera at the sound of the familiar feminine voice. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to follow the sensual tones that drifted to her from across the room straight into the crypt. It made her want to die, to feel the ecstasy of her embrace again, to suffer. She felt so weak, so powerless, and it made her afraid. She was naked without her gun. They'd taken it from her, of course. Not that it would have mattered. She couldn't hurt Teresa. No matter how much she she wanted to. No matter how much she tried. She was bound by her blood, and it filled her with bitterness. Vera drew a slow breath, an old habit from life that she couldn't quite shake. She looked up from the marble floor, and flashed her teeth in a defiant smile that was full of anger, years of rage only barely contained, "I'm not sorry."
"Of course not, Vera," Teresa purred, stepping into the light. Despite her best efforts, Vera could feel her jaw slacken with awe as she gazed at her sire. She was so beautiful. Hair the color of midnight fell past her shoulders. An evening gown in crimson silk, that fit just so, accented an inhumanly perfect figure. Slender arms were hidden beneath a web of black lace, and her reddish brown skin was flush with color, as if she was still alive. Teresa's cherry colored lips pursed into a wicked smile. That same smile that had broken Vera, cursed her, and lit a fire deep inside of her that had almost consumed her."You have always been my most disobedient servant."
"You went too far. You asked for too much. You knew. You always knew," Vera said with a rising desperation in her voice. "You knew I wouldn't do it."
"No, I simply hoped that you had finally understood what you are, what we are," Teresa softly replied, her "I believed in you. I gave you a chance, and you disappointed me."
"You made me what I am."
"I did, yes. A pity you that you could not recognize the wonderful gift that I gave you. I saved you from your humanity."
"I- I tried," Vera stammered, her voice finally breaking. The brilliant seas of emerald she faced, drowned her in memories and desire. They tore at the faint echoes that remained of Vera's soul, and filled her with dread. "You gave me no choice. I couldn't–"
"Oh, Vera, you always had a choice," Teresa interrupted, slipping closer. Vera could feel her nervous system screaming. A predator, a true monster, stood ever closer to her, just out of arms reach. Vera willed her body to move, but it wouldn't listen.
"I'm not a monster, I'm not like you," Vera managed to snarl, fighting the spell that had enthralled her.
"Oh, but you are, Vera. You have killed, you have fed, and you have bled for me," Teresa said bridging the gap between them. Removing a glove, she softly stroked the side of Vera's face. She spoke slowly, sensuously, and each lovely syllable that escaped from her generous mouth pulled painfully at the strings of Vera's unmoving heart. Lost in her sire's eyes, Vera shivered with unwelcome pleasure. There was power in those ancient eyes, so much power, and Vera could feel the hatred that she had nursed so carefully fade from her thoughts. The love that Vera felt for the elder vampire was overwhelming.
"Teresa, please," Vera begged.
"If only you had listened, if only you had learned," Teresa sadly whispered, placing a finger over her lips. "You were so close to perfection. So close. I only wanted you to live. To forget that silly code of honor that weakens you, cheapens you, and binds you to these pitiful mortals."
"Just kill me. You've won. Make it stop," Vera sobbed wearily. She couldn't take it. Not anymore. It was too much. She couldn't fight the compulsion of the blood that moved within her, the blood that had turned her. She felt as if something inside of her, something terribly human, would break and shatter into a thousand pieces.
"No, no, my dear, sweet Vera. That would be so terribly boring, so predictable," Teresa said with a wicked smile. "Your dream, your nightmare must continue."
"Worry not, childe, you won't last long on your own. Not in this city. Not with the enemies you have made. Not without my protection," Teresa teased, laughing sweetly. She moved impossibly close to Vera, drawing painfully near, her body pressing against the young vampire's body. Her cool breath brushing against Vera's shaking lips, "When the Final Death takes you, think of me, and remember that you chose your fate."
Teresa brushed her lips faintly against Vera's lips, pulling back with a cruel grin as an involuntary, desperate whimper escaped from her captive. Vera could only watch as Teresa turned, and walked away from her.
"Teresa, wait, don't leave-" Vera pleaded, pain, unbearable pain coursing through her body.
Teresa did not stop, and faded into the shadows. Her fading voice a final torment, "I will miss you my dear police girl."
"No! You can't do this to me!" Vera shouted. Her body ignored her. Her will was shattered. Tears threatened as she tried to move. She had to stop her. She had to pursue her sire. How could she live without her? Before she could follow, an impossibly large set of hands grabbed her, hefted her off her feet, and slammed her mercilessly against the closet wall. Gasping for air, Vera struggled, and flailed desperately with her limbs, trying for any purchase, any strike that might wound. Blows that should have shattered bones, met only with unwavering resistance, as if she had struck a mountain, and not a man.
"Do that again, Vera, and I'll keep your head," the unseen figure rumbled, grabbing a hold of the back of her head, and violently smashing Vera's face against the unforgiving bricks.
"Fuck you, Anton," Vera spat back. Her retinas were alight with brilliant arcs of fire, and she could barely hear the thundering voice of the Russian over the ringing that echoed in her ears. Not that it mattered. Not ever. She wasn't going to listen. Not to him. Not to Anton. Not to Teresa's inhuman butcher. She wouldn't surrender. She wouldn't give him that satisfaction.
There was no warning when he threw her to the ground, delivering a kick that sent her skidding against the door with a dull thump. Groaning loudly, Vera tried to breath. Anton raised the young vampire unceremoniously to her feet by the collar of her jacket with an uninterested frown. "Enough. No more games."
"Fine," Vera seethed. She knew she had no chance against Anton. She had seen what the gigantic vampire could do. She wasn't ready to die again. Not yet. Not like that.
Anton nodded and the heavy metal door opened behind her. Vera felt a rush of cold air as he tossed her out into the darkened alley. The door slammed shut and she swallowed blood and the wave of nausea that threatened to overwhelm her. She wasn't hurt, not badly. She'd recover soon enough. She just needed to find shelter, she needed to move. She needed to move before they found her.
Crawling to her knees, Vera slammed a fist against the metal, "Anton, you bastard! I know you're still there! My gun, give me my gun. It's the least you can do. For old time's sake."
Vera heard the locks turning, managing to fall pathetically to the side as the door opened.
"For old time's sake," Anton grunted, tossing her pistol.
All steel and lovely, the pistol clattered impotently across the pavement, landing next to Vera. The door slammed shut, and Vera sat up unsteadily. With shaky hands, she grabbed her pistol, and in a single, fluid motion, she ejected the magazine and cleared the chamber. Emptying the magazine in her lap, she carefully counted the bullets. A mad laugh escaped her throat. Nine rounds. Anton had left her only nine rounds. Nine rounds of nine by nineteen millimeter Parabellum. It wouldn't last for very long.
Tucking the pistol against the small of her back, Vera buried her head in her arms and wept. Tears of crimson, the only tears left to her monstrous kind streaked down her cheeks, falling slowly onto the cold pavement.
Name: Sophia "Doc" Wallace, although it is almost a certainty that this is an assumed name. Age: Mid-twenties Descriptor: A kind necromancer, efficient undertaker, and skilled practitioner of medicine.
Far from a gunslinger, Sophia does not come across as very intermediating or threatening, and she stands evenly at an average height in a good pair of shoes. There is a stillness to her person, a reassuring thoughtfulness, and a subtle reminder of the polite civilization that is often left behind on the way to Ulysses. Sophia has a way of putting people at ease and has mastered the medically necessary talent of convincing her others that things will be alright, even when they clearly will not. Keen to avoid undue attention, the young necromancer does not have the pale skin that one might expect of a crypt-dwelling vampire or traditionally grave-robbing necromancer. Her skin is instead cast in a light shade of beige, warmed by the touch of the sun and painted with a collection of gentle freckles. Sophia has clever, azure eyes, that shine with a strange, eerie light when she casts spells. She has delicate eyebrows and full, expressive lips, that are only rarely set with severity or anger. She keeps her long black hair pinned in an elaborate knot at the nape of her neck, not quite having the heart to cut it short despite the impracticality of caring for long hair on the frontier. To secure the chignon, Sophia uses ivory or silver hairpins that match the tasteful jewelry that decorates her ears.
In short, for a person who spends most of her time among the dead and dying, Sophia has a remarkably warm disposition.
Unlike a great many of the other residents of Ulysses, Sophia does not have any impressive scars or missing body parts, and she has yet to lose so-much as a tooth in a drunken scuffle. She firmly believes that a healthy appearance is as important of an indicator of the skill of the medical practitioner as the girth of a chef is to the quality of the cooking.
Day to Day Attire: Sophia is an androgynous dresser and favors bespoke three piece suits in shades of black, grey, or brown, bow ties, dark low-heeled leather shoes, and reasonably sized top hats. It is a rare sight to see Sophia in a dress, but rumors persist that the young woman was once seen in a tavern wearing a blue silk evening gown. She wears a variety of small rings, inlaid with silver and set with jewels that seem to dance with arcane energy, on her fingers.
Frontier/Traveling Attire: When venturing out into the wilds, Sophia favors the practical dress of the vaqueros, and some have accused her of being overly fond of the vest and poncho combo.
All credit for the wonderful image goes to one,Steve Gibson.
Sophia was born somewhere on the East Coast a little more than two decades ago, likely Connecticut if her accent is any indication, and unlike a great many of the citizens of Ulysses she comes from a decidedly upper middle class family. A precocious child, she grew up wishing to follow in the footsteps of her father, a trained surgeon, and spent much of her early life buried in books. She lived something of a charmed life, wanting little, and basking in the comfort afforded to her by her family. What promised to be a pleasant, if predictable life, was forever changed when a teenage Sophia visited an antique bookshop with her mother. Drawn to a dark, seldom visited corner of the tomb-like shop, she found an strange book bound in leather and dyed a deep midnight. It was an ancient tome written in a strange hand and a stranger language still.
At first, the grimoire made little sense. However, with time, Sophia began to understand letters, then words, then phrases, then paragraphs, and finally pages. It was then that she met Balthazar, or rather, what remained of the ancient wizard. He was an ethereal creature, a spirit, that appeared only to the young girl. Once, had a been a great wizard, an infamous necromancer feared and respected throughout both the Old and the New World. He had met his end, predictably for a necromancer, at the hands of a coalition of his many enemies. It was his books that she had found, Balthazar said. He had written it centuries earlier, weaving powerful magic into each page, creating a bridge to another, cheating death, and ensuring that his legacy would not die with him, as it had with so many other persecuted necromancers.
The ancient spirit suggested that Sophia enter into a pact with him, providing him with an anchor to the mortal world far stronger than the weakening magic that still remained in his grimoire. In return, Balthazar promised Sophia knowledge, the vast sum of knowledge, both mundane and magical that he had acquired over his long life. He promised her guidance, training in the arcane arts, instruction in hermetic rituals, and an unparalleled mastery of the grim school of necromancy. But most of all, he promised her a friendship that would last beyond the grave. One oath, various arcane ingredients, and a small quantity of blood later, Sophia found herself with her very own spirit mentor.
From that point onwards, Sophia changed, she grew focused, impossibly focused, and a sense of purpose pervaded all her actions. Gone was the carefree girl she had been, replaced by an ambitious young woman. Guided by Balthazar, Sophia broke off an engagement that would have seen her married off to the son of a steel baron soon after. She had never seemed overly excited about the prospect and her parents could do little to convince the willful young woman that she was threatening her future. With great effort, she convinced her parents to send her off to a proper school, a university of peerless prestige, unparalleled scientific achievement, and great wealth. Her days were spent studying medicine, pouring over books concerning anatomy, chemistry, and the treatment of diseases. Her nights were spent in her darkened room with Balthazar, pouring over arcane tomes, drawing ritual patterns in chalk, and learning spells that manipulated life and death.
A scant four years later, Sophia left the world of academia and the university with a medical degree in hand. Although her instructors professed that they were a bit alarmed at the strange hours she kept, and the ease with which she dealt with dead bodies. Still, she was a talented surgeon they all remarked, one of the best they had ever seen. If she was a bit strange? Well, what did that really matter? Ambitions to establish a practice near her childhood home were soon crushed by resistance in the established medical community and Sophia found herself reduced to nothing more than an undertaker, the closet job she could find to a actually practicing medicine. On a bet and to prove a point, Sophia eventually secured the necessary license to pursue this line of work.
For a time, life was good, and Sophia managed to make a comfortable living seeing to the burial of the dead. At the very least, it afforded her discreet access to the raw materials required for any self-respecting necromancer to continue their work, namely corpses of varying vintage. As her mundane career faltered, Sophia continued to pursue her mastery of the arcane arts. Like Balthazar before her, Sophia had little interest in forced servitude as a member of one of the great orders of mages that existed in the New World. Instead, through talent, wit, and occasionally bribery, Sophia maintained a precarious position as an unaffiliated and sometimes only barely tolerated wizard. None, save Balthazar, and especially not other students of magic, were privy to her practice of necromancy.
For all her caution, Sophia's life was undone by a whirlwind romance with a conjurer, a naive hope to do good, and the robbery of an arcane vault belonging to the fanatical arcane inquisitors of the Guardians of the Veil. Balthazar had warned her, but she had not listened, and she paid the price. Betrayed by the woman she loved, Sophia did unspeakable, necessary, and evil things in order to survive. She broke the only oath she had lived by. The only oath that mattered. She took a life. A life that had mattered to her more than any other. Others followed. Bystanders. Unintended victims. The result of a spell gone horribly wrong. An entire city block lost to the ether.
She ran as far as she could. Stealing a horse, a gun, and then an entire wagon, she headed out West. Shedding her past, her name, and even her appearance along the way. Long days turned to weeks, then months, and when Sophia finally arrived in Ulysses she awoke to find that the melancholy dreams that had accompanied her journey had changed her. There was a darkness in the heart of the town that called to her, but she was no longer afraid. She had found a new purpose, a new place to call home, and a path towards the sort of redemption that only the wasteland can offer.
She wouldn't run.
Not this time.
Sophia Wallace is currently the only practicing doctor and licensed undertaker in the small town of Ulysses. Among the citizens of Ulysses, both mundane and supernatural, she is invariably known as "Doc" or at most "Doc Wallace". A newcomer to the town, Sophia has quickly established herself as a respected and indispensable member of the community. The timing of her arrival was most fortuitous for the townsfolk, as the previous town doctor, Mr. Francois Dumont, had perished only a few weeks prior to her arrival in a tragic and mysterious wagon accident.
Sophia's skill as a doctor are truly remarkable, and in the safety of the Leaky Pitcher some of the townsfolk quietly whisper that there is something supernatural about the effortless way the young woman wields her scalpel. However, following those rare times when even the good doctor is unable to cure a patient, the townsfolk take comfort in the knowledge that a coffin and a proper burial can be arranged for in the very same building for a most reasonable price.
A gifted necromancer, Sophia relies on the widespread, but mistaken belief that necromancers cannot command healing magic and a steady supply of legally acquired corpses to hide herself and her necromantic magic in plain sight. Despite her chosen arcane vocation, Sophia is far from evil, and simply wants to make an honest living helping others.
"That depends, who's asking?" Sophia warily answered. She had only just gotten her drink. It had been a long day. Three burials in one morning was two too many. One would have been enough, more than enough. She only asked for a bit of business, she wasn't greedy, she didn't need to be so busy. She had books to read, and undead to converse with. She wanted to take a bath. A real bath, a hot bath...she needed a bath tub.
Despite knowing better, Sophia eventually looked up from her drink. In front of her stood a prim and proper lady, an aristocrat that had no business in the Leaky Pitcher. Especially not on a Sunday. She wore a green satin dress with laced short sleeves over a linen chemise, a lace cap trimmed with rose-colored tassels, and an elaborate fan in her hand. She was stunning, and Sophia was almost surprised she had made it unaccosted to her table.
"Hannelore Weber," the young woman energetically proclaimed with a nod that was intended to be very serious. The dramatic and all too obvious pause that followed told Sophia that she was dealing with the worst sort of actress. "Of the Guardians of the Veil, perhaps you have heard of us?"
Sophia let out a low sigh in response, but did her best to recover, it wouldn't do to offend the newcomer, she wasn't in the mood for a tavern brawl, especially not an arcane one,"Who hasn't?"
Mention of the infamous, among wizards, order of do-gooders and fanatical inquisitors sent a shiver down Sophia's spine and caused a presence to stir in the most carefully guarded recesses of her mind. He was angry, but more importantly, he was annoyed.
"Only the uninitiated," Hannelore smugly agreed, taking a seat unbidden across from Sophia.
"Well, Miss Hannelore, what brings you to this wonderful stretch of desolation and death known to the Gods as the town of Ulysses?"
"It has come to our attention, through a confidential source, that there are strange forces, arcane forces, at work in this town. And naturally when it also came to our attention that you were a recent immigrant to this fair city...well, you can't exactly be surprised that my superiors felt best to send a member of our order to have a chat with you."
"Oh, indeed?" Sophia answered, doing her best to appear bored.
"There's quite the file on you in the archives. I haven't seen it, of course, but I've been told it's extensive and very detailed."
"I'm sure there are only good things about me mentioned in your papers," the young necromancer hesitantly added, carefully studying her glass of whiskey.
"However, all our information was a bit out of date. We had great trouble identifying your current associates. Notwithstanding, Miss —"
"Don't say her name!" Sophia growled, slamming a fist hand down on the table, feeling the heat that spread across her cheeks.
It had the desired effect, and Hannelore looked at her cautiously with wide eyes. "Ahem. Well. I must ask, to what great order or society do you currently belong?"
"You aren't a member of a hermetic order?"
"No," Sophia replied with a small chortle.
"Surely, a magician as talented as you is aware of the dangers of exploring the matters of the occult alone and without the proper guidance?"
"I am, but all the same, I prefer to work alone. For obvious reasons..."
"That's a lie," a voice indignantly interjected, clearly hurt at what the young necromancer had insinuated. Vaguely British-sounding, the proud voice was accompanied by the sweet smell of pipe tobacco and a subtle hint of jasmine. "How long have I not guided you? I raised you up from middle class drollery and saved you from a loveless marriage to some fool of a baron's son. I initiated you into study of the great hermetic mysteries of existence. I taught you how to summon and command the dead. I instructed you in how to parley with spirits and devils alike. I forged a pact with you to span the ages and defeated death herself."
Sophia rubbed her brows wearily. It took some effort not to reply out loud in order to silence the long-dead wizard that now resided mostly in her head. He was arrogant, so damn arrogant, and even death had not robbed him of all of his power. The contract bound him to her, but it also bound her to him. Nominally, she was the master, but all magicians knew better than to trust the oaths of spirits and devils. At least in theory.
"Not now, Balthazar, I'm trying to be diplomatic," Sophia thought, shaping her thoughts into as strong of a command as she could discreetly muster.
"Oh yes, let us reason with our enemies," Balthazar disdainfully quipped.
"They are not our enemies, they are not my enemies, at least not yet."
"Don't worry, they will be soon enough, girl," Balthazar cheerfully mused. "The Guardians of the Veil have never been overly fond of necromancers. Do you know how many of my laboratories they destroyed? How many of my books they burned? And how many of my apprentices they killed?"
"No one will notice one more body, not here, not now."
"Then what are you?" The prim and proper woman sitting across from Sophia practically hissed. She was growing increasingly irritated. Sophia had ignored her for too long. Balthazar had a habit of interrupting her thoughts as he pleased. He was a perpetual back-seat wagon driver. Most of the time it had the effect of making Sophia seem very thoughtful, like a philosopher of yore. The rest of the time it had the unfortunate habit of irritating those that expected a quick reply.
Sophia composed herself and took a small sip from the neat glass of whiskey that stood on the battered table in front of her. She relished the warmth that burned it's way down her throat and filled her chest with a pleasant tingling sensation. She carefully considered what to reply. Hermetic wizards were a superstitious and cautious lot and never took kindly to practitioners of the magical arts that operated outside of the usually safe domain of well-established and supposedly safe rituals. She didn't want to make a scene. It wouldn't do for the Sheriff to have to make an appearance. Not again. It had barely been a week.
Still thinking, she tapped a finger against her nose, "Ah, I suppose you could say that I am something of an independent contractor."
"A witch?" The other woman venomously asked. Sophia could not help but notice that she had managed to shift her chair away from her in record time. There was fear in her eyes, and that was never good. Not in a patient, not in a corpse, and certainly not in a hermetic wizard that was primed to blow you sky high with a fireball at the drop of a hat.
"Actually, I prefer the title Doctor," Sophia replied, flashing what she hoped was a disarming smile in the direction of the her conversational companion. She hefted her medical bag onto the table and patted it on the side, like one would pat a very large and very friendly dog. She leaned across the table, placing her elbows on the uneven wood of the table, and resting her chin on her interlaced fingers.
"Look, I'm flattered, very flattered that your order has taken an interest in my person and my interests here. However, I assure you, I am simply trying to make an honest living."
"Here?" Hannelore asked incredulously. "In this place."
"You have a point there," Sophia agreed taking in the filthy tavern and the filthier patrons surrounding her. "But yes."
Sophia laughed, smiling again, and shook her head slowly from side to side with amusement, "I told you, I'm a doctor. I have to help."
Magical Powers/Special Abilities:
I Put On My Necromancer Hat - Sophia is a talented wizard focusing on furthering her knowledge of the much feared and reviled art of necromancy. Like most practitioners of magic, Sophia is well-versed in hermetic rituals and the ways of spirits, devils, and other creatures found beyond the natural plane of existence. While, she secretly identifies as a necromancer, Sophia is also a capable spellslinger in a number of other more mainstream domains of magic.
They Being Dead Still Speakth - Sophia has a knack for conversing with the dead, managing to successfully interpret their often disjointed thoughts and understanding the strange, dead languages that seem to be in vogue among the deceased of all ages.
Dead Friends in High Places - Guided by the whispers of the dead, Sophia has a second-sense for avoiding danger, spotting traps, and navigating through the domains of the dead.
Tough as Bone - Having spent so much time among the dead, Sophia appears to have gained some of the qualities of an undead creature. In the course of her study of the art of necromancy, Sophia has become remarkably resistant to disease, physical damage, and pain. To her great sorrow, the young wizard is however still very mortal, if very cold to the touch of others.
Mental Bastion - Dealing with the undead and restless spirits on a frequent basis has left Sophia with a remarkably casual attitude towards all things related to horror, death, and madness.
Spirit Mentor - Sophia has a spirit mentor, a ghostly companion and guide that has accompanied her since her early childhood. The ghost is the incorporeal and usually grumpy spirit of a once living necromancer, infamous across all of the New World for his mastery of the dark arts. Balthazar the Black, as he calls himself, rarely makes himself perceptible to others or affects the world in any noticeable way, apart from advising Sophia on arcane matters. He appears capable of changing forms at a whim, but mostly takes the form of a weathered old man, with a carefully trimmed beard in the style of Gibraldi, a long flowing gray robe, and a soft-crowned gray hat. The ghost claims to be the incorporeal and usually grumpy spirit of a once living necromancer, infamous across all of the New World for his mastery of the dark arts. Although he is understandably reluctant to speak about it, almost forgotten stories mention that the ancient necromancer met his end at the hands of a coalition of powerful enemies several centuries ago. Tragic deaths notwithstanding, Sophia has learned most of what she knows about hermetic magic, the occult, and necromancy under Balthazar's exacting tutelage.
Licensed Undertaker - Sophia is one of the few legitimately licensed undertakers in found this far from proper civilization. She knows how to make coffins, cheap and expensive, small and large, and how to prepare all manner of bodies for burial.
Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a... - Surprisingly for the era, Sophia is an actual doctor, a very good doctor, and not just a barber moonlighting as a surgeon like many of her so-called colleagues. She has a fancy diploma on her office wall that mentions some place called the "Harvard School of Medicine". However, whether this diploma is real or a high quality forgery is another matter entirely.
Experienced Traveler - Sophia is an experienced traveler and is used to life on the road or in the wilderness. When asked she claims to have traveled far and wide in search of alchemical knowledge and she commands a number of rare or esoteric languages, some of which do not sound like they were meant for human tongues.
Passable Shot - Sophia knows how to use firearms, especially shotguns and rifles, well-enough for someone living on the increasingly dangerous frontier. However, given her adherence to the Hippocratic Oath, she's reluctant to aim her gun at another person in anger and slower still to actually shoot to harm or kill.
Well Read - An educated woman, Sophia has wide range of knowledge regarding subjects both mundane and supernatural in nature.
Leather Physician's Bag - When she leaves her practice, Sophia brings a well-worn, leather physician's bag with her of impeccable quality. To those initiated in hermetic mysteries or sensitive to the arcane, there is a faint, but powerful force of magic that emanates from the bag. To everyone else, the medical bag is n different from any other and is full of the tools of Sophia's medical trade.
Silver Pocket Watch - One of Sophia's most prized possession is an ancient keywind pocket watch cast in silver. Inside the front cover of the pocket watch are strange etchings and words that are clearly not human in origin.
Arcane Grimoire - Sophia's other prized possession is a leather-bound grimoire dyed midnight black. Clearly ancient, the book is full of arcane formulas, long-forgotten rituals, and forbidden spells belonging to the shunned school of necromancy. An astute observer might notice that the handwriting of this arcane tome matches that etched into the front cover of Sophia's pocket watch.
Appaloosa Horse - Recalling the tragic fate of her predecessor, Sophia has steered clear of wagons, and for transportation she has an Appaloosa horse, a lovely spotted creature that she won from a Nez Perce shaman in a wager she speaks of with a mischievous smile painted on her lips.
Coach Gun - When good sense demands it, Sophia carries a shortened, double-barred shotgun discreetly in her medical bag. Currently, she sports a fashionable 10 gauge William Moore & Company coach gun. Although accuracy tapers off at medium to far range, at close range the firearm is most effective.
Wallace's Medical and Funeral Services - Sophia's medical practice is located in a decrepit building that was once the local funeral home. Within the storied walls of the simple two-story house she offers both medical and funeral services depending on the current needs of her customer. Since buying the building Sophia has effected only the most basic repairs and painted the building an already fading shade of green. Marked by death, the building is somehow mildly threatening, filling those that view it with a sense of dread and unexpected wariness. The local neighborhood children claim that the building is haunted and tell stories of a strange glowing light emanating from the windows in the middle of the night. To Sophia's chagrin, it has become something of a game for the children to dare one another to knock on her door after dark.
Whiskey Drinker - At the end of a long day, Sophia enjoys a drink or two, and if given a choice she prefers a simple, neat glass of whiskey.
Mysterious - Sophia carefully cultivates an air of mystery around herself and her past. She has few friends, but many acquaintances, and while she is seen as a respected member of both the mundane and supernatural communities she remains aloof of any established organizations.
"Ah, yes, Sister Cold Hands. Her faith is surpassed only by her martial skill. Mark my words, friend, she will go far, very far. If only she learns when to walk away from trouble. But such is the foolishness of youth, is it not?" — Brother Alvar the Gray.
Sister of Order of the Frozen Heart
Unremarkable in stature, Cold Hands is far from imposing. She has short white hair, the color of fresh bone, that almost never falls past her shoulders. Her skin is painted a shade of ivory, and bears the scars and marks, both large and small, of a martial profession. She has thoughtful eyes of blue so pale that they border on white, and thin lips that rest in a soft smile. Years of rigorous physical training and time spent as a wandering nun have afforded the young woman a lithe, athletic build. Cold Hands moves gracefully and effortlessly, somehow managing to exude an air of determined serenity no matter where she goes.
Cloistered Upbringing - Taken in by Order of the Frozen Heart in her early childhood, Cold Hands has been steeped in the mysticism and religious ritual of her order for as long as she can remember. She has benefited from a monastic education and is literate in a number of languages, both common and obscure. She is knowledgeable about the history of the lands as written by the great masters and is familiar with the treatises of learned scholars. More importantly, the religious texts of the Order of the Frozen Heart are as familiar to her as her own heart, and she can accurately recite entire manuscripts from memory alone.
Eighteen Frost Dragon Subduing Palms - Cold Hands is a master of unarmed combat. She has mastered all seventeen legendary fighting styles of her order, combining them into an eighteenth hitherto lost style, that is uniquely her own. She is comfortable at all ranges of combat, cheerfully fighting foes armed, armored, and unarmed with little difficulty. In battle, Cold Hands wastes no time or movement, favoring direct and brutally efficient techniques.
Purity of Body and Soul - Through her rigorous training and study of the martial arts Cold Hands has strengthened and purified her body. She has become highly resistant to the many diseases and toxins that may assail the body of the true believer. Her movements are graceful and effortless, her strikes hit with explosive force, and she has transcended the mundane limitations of humanity.
Still Mind - Years of daily mediation and quiet contemplation have allowed Cold Hands to develop a mental stillness and focus that borders on the supernatural. She has carefully cultivated her willpower, forging it into a shield of cold iron. Attempts to affect her mind, meet only quiet, but unwavering resistance.
Blind Fight - Cold Hands has trained herself not to rely solely on her eyes, as the eyes can easily be deceived. Instead, she has focused on cultivating all her senses, and she possesses an uncanny sense of perception even in the thick of combat.
Frozen Heart - In order to come closer to true enlightenment, Cold Hands has sacrificed a core part of her humanity. Following the teaching of her order, she has frozen her heart and silenced her emotions through ancient religious ritual and powerful arcane magic. As a result, Cold Hands can no longer feels any emotion.
Monastic Robe - Cold Hands wear a simple robe with a hood that is dyed a light shade of blue. The symbol of her order, although faded, is visible on the back of the robe.
Traveler's Clothes - Beneath her robe Cold Hands wears loose wool breeches, a form-fitting shirt, a sturdy leather belt, and a light jacket. She favors soft boots that allow acrobatics and specific movements of her feet.
Survivalist Pack - Slung on her back, Cold Hands carries a leather traveling pack that contains the preserved supplies, tools, and various items necessary for traversing the wilds.
Ice Magic - Cold Hands is a skilled practitioner of elemental magic centered on the element of ice. She can imbue her fists with arcane energy, stunning, freezing, and dealing additional damage to anything she strikes. Having spent years practicing, she is also capable of hurling spikes of ice at her foes, creating walls of frost, cloaking herself in snow, shaping ice into layers of night impenetrable armor, and if given enough time, she can summon deadly blizzards. Perhaps, as a result of her mastery of ice magic, Cold Hands appears impervious to the effects of extreme cold, and wears only a minimal amount of clothing in even the worst of weather.
Acrobatics - Although, not performers in the classical sense, members of the martial orders often entertain travelers with seemingly inhuman feats of physical dexterity and strength. Cold Hands is no exception and has often performed to supplement the usually meager funds accorded to her by her order. She is capable of jumping to great heights and distances and falling from heights that would be fatal to other humans.
Survival - Unlike most other religious acolytes that spend their days in the safety of the monastery, all members of the Order of the Frozen Heart are expected to be able to survive and even thrive in the frozen wasteland of the far North.
Experienced Traveler - Cold Hands has spent much of her adult life traveling across the realms of Telduria in the service of her order and is a capable traveler.
Healing - While she is no expert healer, like many religious acolytes Cold Hands has been instructed in the art of healing. She can set bones, treat wounds, and is knowledgeable regarding the creation and use of a number of herbs and poultice.
Cold Hands is a member of the Order of the Frozen Heart, an offshoot of the Order of the Radiant Sun that still maintains cordial, if strained relations, with the original order.
Warm and pleasant in her demeanor, Cold Hands exudes an air of calm and serenity. Guided by her faith, she believes in helping those in need, no matter the cost to herself. She is brave, but not foolish, and maintains a supernatural control of her emotions. In truth, as part of her path towards enlightenment, Cold Hands has suppressed her emotions through complex ritual and arcane means. While she possesses memories and understanding of what it means to feel, the young nun is no longer able to experience any emotions. Unburdened by her emotions, Cold Hands is nonetheless still keenly aware of what is right and wrong.
Surprisingly worldly for a nun, Cold Hands is as comfortable drinking in a rowdy tavern as she is meditating in a quiet monastery. She is fond of people, stories, and great adventures that permit her to travel across Telduria.
Concept: Cold Hands is a member of the Order of the Frozen Heart, she is a pilgrim traveling the lands in recognition of her faith, and a master of unarmed combat.
Cold Hands had traveled with the party of guild adventurers for the better part of a month, and as the autumn sun faded, she found herself resting on a bench in a quiet tavern, her back resting comfortably against the cloth covered wall, a mug of ale clasped between her hands, and the imposing walls of Tarantis less than a fortnight away.
"What about you, Cold Hands, why not tell us a bit about yourself? You know as much as there is to know about the rest of us," The leader of the party, a minor hedge knight from Kron-Nesis suggested with a friendly and honest smile as he drained most of his tankard of ale.
"Happily," Cold Hands agreed. "Where would you like me to begin?"
"Why do they call you, Cold Hands?" the elf ranger of the party teased.
Cold Hands smiled and moved closer to the young elf. With a playful nod, she softly brushed the side of elf's face, admiring the beauty of the woman. "My hands have always been very cold."
The elf's mouth opened with shock, before settling into a familiar impish grin. "Your hands are absolutely freezing."
"Yes," Cold Hands smirked.
"Is that really your name though, Cold Hands? Surely you must have a proper name?" The hedge knight inquired mid-drink.
"Names are power. A friend, Aumak taught me that once," Cold Hands replied with a heavy pause. Memories she thought that she had long since banished returned to her. But she welcomed them nonetheless. She no longer felt the feelings that she had once felt, and the memories no longer hurt her. Out of habit, she forced a smile to cross her lips. "I just prefer to just be known as Cold Hands. It's as good of name as any."
"Of course, it's a fine name, a fine name for a capable warrior," the half-orc fighter from the Fang Lands intoned jovially, slapping Cold Hands good-naturedly on a shoulder. "You said once that you'd joined the monastery at a young age, right?"
"Mmm, yes. I have been a servant of the Radiant Sun for as long as I can remember. My parents gave me to the order before I could even walk, much less speak."
"They gave you away?" Her companions burst out almost in unison. The elven ranger managed to almost choke on the sweet wine she drank and the half-orc looked personally offended on her account.
Cold Hands laughed, it seemed proper, "You misunderstand. In the lands of the North it is a great honor to give your child to the faith. And it is a great kindness for the monastery to take in a child. There is a heavy price for raising anything, much less a child, in the land of ice."
"So, you grew up in a monastery, then?"
"Yes, I was raised by the brothers and sisters of the Order of the Frozen Heart. It was a wonderful life. Not an easy life of course, but a good one. A simple life, a life of learning and faith. I spent my days with the other neophytes, children mostly, first learning the simplest rituals of my order, then how to read and write, and finally studying the ancient texts housed in our monastery. From our elders, we learned how to meditate, how to center ourselves, how to find peace. To master yourself, is to master the world as the Abbotess always said."
Cold Hands leaned in closer to the table, lowering her voice as if whispering a secret,"Although, I must confess, I enjoyed our physical lessons the most. Training with the warrior acolytes of the order was always my favorite part of the day. They were strict, unforgiving teachers, but it made us all the better, it made us strong. They taught us the many ways of armed and unarmed combat, how to fight, how to protect, and how to survive."
"Wait, they taught you and the other acolytes to fight?"
"Of course, attaining enlightenment requires not the betterment of not just the soul and mind, but the body as well."
"My order has always maintained a robust view of the duties of an acolyte. All members of the order are expected to be able defend themselves and those in need. The frozen wastelands does not ignore weakness based on the depth of faith or innocence, the land is harsh and unforgiving," Cold Hands offered with a shrug. She took a slow sip from her tankard of ale, a faraway look on her face. "I remember in my twelfth year our teachers sent us out into the the wild for several weeks with only a small knife and a couple of days worth of supplies. They had taught us well though, and only a few of us perished."
An awkward silence followed, and the adventurers exchanged quick glances that Cold Hands magnanimously chose to ignore. She did not expect those who had not faced the endless cold of a winter night to understand.
"So, those movements that you do every morning and evening? The twirly stuff...They're fighting techniques?" The dwarven barbarian of the group finally interjected, doubt clear in his deep voice.
"In a way, they are, yes," Cold Hands replied with a fond smile. "They were among the first forms I learned."
"Ah well, you can fight, I will give you that, Miss, but I don't put much stock in your fancy dancing," the dwarf huffed. "How did ye come to be an adventurer then? You're the first woman of the cloth I've ever met outside of a temple, not that I've met many robed ladies, of course.
"My order is a bit different from most," Cold Hands answered knowingly. "Like all acolytes of my order, when I came of age, I ventured forth into the world. Seeking to learn, to teach, and to do good. And I have continued my journey ever since. It has been a most interesting experience—"
"That's not all though, is it?" the elven ranger interrupted with a wry smile and a tone of conspiracy. "I've heard you asking questions in every city, town, or even outpost we've stopped at. Always the same name."
Cold Hands nodded, she did not make a practice of denying the truth if it could be helped, dishonesty was an unbecoming of a true believer, "It is true, I have a personal reason to travel as well. I am looking for the great wizard Aumak. We grew up together and he is dear to my heart. Our paths diverged some years ago, and I would like to speak with him again."
"When did you last see him?"
"Five years ago, and then nothing, until I heard rumors that he had passed through the great gate of Tarantis less than a year ago."
"Aha, so thats why you joined our party?"
"Partly," Cold Hands answered truthfully. "But you seemed like the right sort of people, perhaps a bit rough around the edges...but good people nonetheless." Laughter followed, and Cold Hands drained the remainder of her ale with a broad smile.
"What's that? The Order of the Frozen Heart. Aye, of course I know of them, boy," the one-eyed hunter replied. "Crazy bunch of fellows in robes. No, not wizards, they ain't wizards, they're more like priests. Stark raving mad, the whole lot of them. Why else would they build a castle on a cursed mountain? Building a castle on any mountain is bad enough. But a cursed mountain, well, that's just asking for trouble, isn't it?"
"So you've met them?" The youth asked.
"Have I met them? Course' I've met them. One of them. What was her name...Cold Hands something or other. She was a strange one. Didn't seem like she was all there. Her smile, you know, it seemed like it was just there for show. Good fighter though, she could throw a mean punch. Bloody terrifying if you ask me, a woman that size shouldn't be able to decapitate an orc with her fist, it's just not right..."
"Wait," the scholar pleaded, scribbling in the journal he had opened in his lap. "Where did you run into this woman? And how?"
"Where was, I? Ah, how I met her?"
"Yes, please, but slowly."
"Well, you see, I was hunting hunting this dire wolf that been preying on the livestock and even a couple of villagers in the town of Sarmo. Wasn't supposed to be any different from any of the other jobs I'd taken to hunt down some marauding beast. Still, that old wolf was a mean one, he was old, and he was damned smart. He took a good chunk out of my leg, he did."
The hunter paused, and subtly nodded towards his now empty horn of mead. "Ah, all this talking is making my throat a bit parched...Perhaps, another drink would help to loosen—"
"Another drink! Of course! But please, continue!"
"And well, that was the problem. See if it's not the cold that gets you in the northern lands, then it's the beasts, and if it's not the beasts then it's your fellow man that tries to gut you," the grizzled hunter said, shaking his head disgustedly, finishing his fresh horn of mead, and gesturing to the barkeep in a fell motion. "So there I was, dragging that godforsaken lump of wolf behind me, when who do I run into but the bloody Red Banner."
"I'm sorry, the Bloody Red Banner? I don't have any notes on them," the young scholar interrupted apologetically.
"Who? Oh, the Bloody Red Banner, nobody important, just some cut-throats and thieves, scum. Suppose they're all dead by now, least I haven't heard of them in a long time."
"I expected it was the end of me. Now sure, I wasn't going down without a fight, what would my ancestors say if I didn't bring one or two bandits with me into the grave. But, well, I was outnumbered, and slowly bleeding out."
"A precarious position to be in," the scribbling scholar agreed.
"I'd only just managed to mutter a prayer to the Sun, the Radiant Sun, when this wisp of a girl appeared, she couldn't have been more than seventeen. She introduced herself as Sister Cold Hands, much to the amusement of the bandits, and then she did the damnedest thing. She asked the bandits to leave. She didn't even have a weapon, at least not as far as I could tell. The bandits were of course less than convinced, although they did laugh mightily at the idea of surrendering to some lunatic."
"Do people often travel without weapons in the northern lands?"
"No, why would they do that? A man without a sword is a dead man, there same as anywhere else."
"But this girl didn't have any weapons?"
"Aye, like I said, she was unarmed."
"Hmm, I see."
The scarred hunter grinned, "She didn't seem to shook up about it,though. I figured she'd turn out to be a mage or something. You know, the fireball hurling kind? Only mages are dumb enough to let a band of bandits charge them. But she wasn't a mage. At least not any sort of mage I've known. She just danced between their attacks, jumping around like some damned snow leopard, before she struck the first bandit. I knew from the sound his skull made when she hit it that he wasn't getting up again, not in this life at least."
"She killed him?"
"Damn near took his head off," the hunter guffawed. "Now trust me, boy, I've seen a fight or two in my day but I've never seen anything like that. That girl fought like a proper warrior, like she'd been trained, you know? But it was different, she didn't fight like some drunken tavern brawler, knight, or pit fighter...no, it was different...like some, I don't know, it was like some dance, except she kept on sending bandits crashing into the frozen ground with broken limbs and cracked skulls."
"How horrible. Please continue."
"Horrible? More like justice. She managed to pummel five of the bandits before the rest of them lost their never and scurried off to wherever it is the damned Bloody Red Banner decide to hide when they catch a beating." The aged hunter laughed, the scholar could tell that it was not the first time he had run afould of the Bloody Red Banner. "And then, she practically carried me back to the monastery at Atan, except she called it a fortress of course, damn girl, it was a castle, but in the far north, a bloody castle is about as impressive as a fortress. How they got all that stone up that mountain, I could never figure out."
"Verryn," the scholar carefully began, rubbing the back of his neck wearily. He could feel how much lighter his coin purse felt on his belt. "I don't mean to be rude, but what was the point of this story again?"
"The point? Well, the point is lad, keep your hands to yourself if you see one of them robed ladies up here or you are going to find yourself with some broken fingers."
The Order of the Frozen Heart
In my travels across the realm of Telduria I have encountered many of the religious orders and the servants of the great faiths that traverse this fascinating world. However, few are to my mind as interesting as the small community of warrior monks and nuns of the Order of the Frozen Heart.
The Order of the Frozen Heart is an enigmatic order of warrior ascetics that reside in the furthermost reaches of the Unknown North. Throughout the realms, the Order of are renowned for the peerless warriors that are trained within the walls of the fortress-monastery of Atan. The so-called Frozen Hearts possess a fierce fighting ability and adeptness at surviving in the harshest of natural conditions.
Founded several centuries ago by Erech the Wise, the Order of the Frozen Heart grew out of dissatisfaction with the weak spiritual teachings and relative inaction that plagued the established religious orders. Although it was once seen as a heretical movement, the Order of the Frozen Heart is now viewed as merely a particularly militant and eccentric offshoot of the Order of the Radiant Sun. According to my sources in the Court of Stars, relations between the two orders is polite, but frosty.
The Order of the Frozen Heart stands out from the other religious orders in the heavy focus that is placed on developing not just the soul, but the mind, and the body through rigorous physical training. Religious acolytes of the Order of the Frozen Heart are expected to be able to survive and thrive in the world outside of the monastery. I have heard stories of young acolytes of the order being cast out into the inhospitable tundra of the Unknown North in order to test their capacity for survival. Further, unlike many other religious acolytes, members of the Order of the Frozen Heart are strongly discouraged from relying on the charity of others and they are forbidden from secluding themselves from the secular world for too long.
The central dogma of the Order of the Frozen Heart is that enlightenment is only possible through complete mastery of the self and suppression of all emotions.
The Fortress-Monastery of Atan
The heart of the Order of the Frozen Heart is the fortress-monastery of Atan that stands on a crag overlooking the Cold Sea, north of Urland and the Court of Stars. Famed for its massive stone walls and towering keeps, Atan also houses the great library of the order and a small community of devoted religious acolytes. Although some have stated that Atan was originally the citadel of Erech the Wise, the keep actually predated the sage by several centuries, having been founded long before the creation of the order by a tribe of nomadic warriors. Those I have spoken with suggest that to gain entry to the hallowed halls of the Order of the Frozen Heart a visitor must gift the order with something of immense personal value.
The Monks and Nuns of Atan
The religious acolytes of the Order of the Frozen Heart are ascetics that live highly disciplined lives. Unfailing kind and helpful, the Frozen Hearts spend most of their days studying religious manuscripts, meditating, or practicing the beautiful form of unarmed fighting for which the order is famous. The monks and nuns of the order are known to spend years at a time away from the monastery, traveling across the realms and serving the order as required. They are highly respected for their unwavering willpower, talents for elemental magic, and fearsome abilities in battle.
During my all too brief time with one of the religious acolytes of the order, a young woman who I knew only as Cold Hands, I was fascinated by the lack of emotion that she displayed. According to Cold Hands, she had sacrificed her emotions in order to follow the path to enlightenment. A practice I have since learned is not uncommon among senior members of the order.
Concept: A mischievous arcane shapeshifter and mostly-retired thief, who is currently working off the sizable debt that she owes to Priest and Hawthorne.
Name: Tamara Ivanivna Federova Diminutive: To her friends and family, Tamara has always been known as Toma. Gender: Female Race/Species: Human, however, given her prodigious talent for shapeshifting it is likely that at least some measure of supernatural blood courses through her veins. Taste test pending. Age: Twenty-five. Who's asking? Appearance:
Nearly a head below average height, Toma has a nimble build, supported by hard-won cords of muscle that are only apparent upon a very personal investigation of her body. Scrappy at heart and an ardent pugilist, she has little regard for even large differences in size. Toma perpetuates an air of not-so-quiet rebellion, if not outright challenge. A fact that can be attested to by the many marks and scars that she proudly wears. Her short black hair is full of rebellion and is kept in what might only generously be described as a very messy pixie cut. Her skin is pale enough to leave a vampire seething with jealously and is increasingly adorned with beautiful ink. The work of several master artists travels across much of her form, but given their locations some pieces are clearly intended only for private viewings. Her storm gray eyes are alight with electricity and seem to dance with the ever-changing arcane energies that she commands. Toma has generous lips, that oscillate between a bored frown and impish smile depending on the company. Fond of standing out, Toma paints her lips and nails in dark shades or vibrant hues. In short, she's quite the cherry bomb.
As if anointed by the punk gods themselves, Toma dresses in a manner befitting only the most cultured of punk royalty. She favors t-shirts decked out with punk flair and rude slogans, black jeans, dark skirts, and fashionably torn fishnet stocking. She has a penchant for accessories and to match her clothes she wears spike bands, silver jewelry, and a studded in choker. She values the ability to deliver a good and owns a beloved pair of beaten bovver boots that are only sparingly polished.
However, Toma's most prized possession is a well-worn leather jacket embroidered with a large tiger and a name in Cyrillic. The jacket is never far from her shoulders and anyone that damages it is likely to find themselves facing a recently shifted and furious Toma.
Professional attire is a matter that Toma believes is best left to other people. When threatened with bodily harm or a significant sum of money, she might be convinced to wear a blazer.
Spitting fire and vitriol in equal measures, Toma is a former punk rocker, a recovering romantic, a bitter cynic, and in her own words a complete sellout. She has long since abandoned the quest for knowledge and power that consumes so many of her colleagues and traded it in for lump-sum payments of cold hard cash deposited into a Swiss bank account. Along the way Toma has acquired a veritable dragon's horde of treasure that has helped to silence her conscience. Or at at least it would have. If she hadn't made a habit of losing her savings in the best and quickest of ways. Despite her troubles, Toma remains convinced that the best motivation a thief can have is being dead broke.
Beneath a carefully crafted persona, an almost forgotten part of Toma remains hellbent on changing the world through the power of DIY magic, spray painted graffiti rituals, and loud music. She does her best to avoid entertaining such childish notions. However, sometimes, in the heat of the moment, she can't help but act like her old idealistic self.
Young enough to still happily ignore wisdom, Toma indulges in a number of vices that more conventional wizards tend to stay very far away from. Her deep love of alcohol is overshadowed only by her even deeper love for magically infused designer drugs. When asked Toma simply channels her inner Burner and replies that, "Magic is even more fun when you're on psychedelics, babe, don't be such a bore." She does best in loud places that are full of people, greasy food, and brilliant drinks. Left to her own devices she is prone to melancholy, long naps, and pointless thievery.
Irreverent and arrogant, Toma makes few apologies. She's rude, loud, and can hold a grudge for an eternity. Lost in her shadowy profession, she cares for few people and trusts fewer still. She respects only those who have shown themselves to be capable and has little patience for mistakes or weakness. Never staying in one place for very long, the young wizard jumps from one fleeting, superficial relationship to the next. Burying her emotions and regrets in ephemeral pleasure. The words 'damaged goods' have been used to describe Toma more than once. However, for all her flaws, and they are many, Toma possesses a truly terrible ability to charm, beguile, and tempt even the most chaste of scholars.
Perhaps as a product of her frequent shifting, Toma has an affinity for animals, especially cats, and can hold lengthy conversations with even the wildest of creatures.
Powers, Traits, and Abilities:
Toma is a talented mage, chiefly in the uncommon domain of transmutation. Channeling arcane energies she is able to alter her appearance and to assume the form of other creatures. She can transform into creatures both mundane and magical, large and small. The constant flux of shifting form has forced her to develop a strong, if fluid, sense of self and she has learned to adapt quickly to unfamiliar bodies and strange environments. She has a thorough understanding of body language and picks up languages, even inhuman ones, with alarming ease. On rare occasions there is a faint, almost imperceptible trace of a Slavic accent when Toma speaks.
Having escaped her humble wizardly origins in pursuit of a far more lucrative criminal calling, Toma has had to acquire a very different set of skills compared to that of a law-abiding wizard. She can open a locks with magic, cloak herself in shadows, silence alarms, and disable cameras with a wave of her hand. Commanding a patchwork of spells from across several domains of magic Toma proudly refers to herself as an arcane thief and entirely eschews the more traditional titles favored by magical practitioners.
When push comes to shove and her magic fails her Toma is more than capable of using whatever means are available to her to leave her foes spellbound. A taser is as good of a Plan B as any, according to Toma.
Beyond her arcane abilities, Toma is a garden-variety human, blessed only with a remarkably high constitution. A trait which has seen her through many days and nights of drunken and drug-fueled debauchery. Well-aware of the pitfalls of her hedonistic lifestyle, the young spellcaster spends a surprising amount of time exercising for a spellslinger and can run a sub-5:00 mile in her true form.
A passable, but reluctant shot, Toma prefers to avoid using any firearms. Instead, she relies on her magic, her mastery of shapeshifting, and her fists if forced to fight. Like a wild creature, Toma fights with instinct rather than reason, relishing the chaos of battle, and using the powers of her shifted forms to her advantage. Secretive about her magic, Toma rarely discusses the times that she has lost control of herself and succumbed to the inhuman fury that she invokes.
Off the clock, Toma enjoys sewing her own clothes, accidentally killing plants, and playing a mean bass guitar. Documents carefully acquired by Shiloh indicate that in her not so distant youth, Toma was a founding member of the now defunct Eastern European punk rock band Тайные хитрости(the Arcane Tricksters). When pressed, the young wizard simply mumbles something about living the riot grrrl life. Like all proper adults Toma can drive stick shift, but she prefers to take the bus.
"I won't do it," Toma said, idly spitting onto the ornate parchment that lay carefully unrolled on the table in front of her. Magical contracts were no trifling matter. She'd seen what a proper geas could do. Poor Harold had never been the same since that terrible day. Seeing the vacant, blissful look in his eyes, she'd promised herself then and there that she'd rather die than find her will chained to some fool of a master.
I fought the law and the law won, Toma thought with a bitter smile. It had been a fun adventure.
The grey haired man sitting across from her frowned, casually adjusting a sleeve of his immaculate suit that seemed to meld with the darkness. For all of his composure Toma could have sworn that she saw literal flames flash behind his sunglasses. Accessories she found to be a strange choice given the gloom that surrounded them. It was a plain, stark room, that smelled of disinfectant and death. Even the shadows that danced beyond the light cast by the overhead light were menacing and Toma wouldn't have been surprised if there was an alter of neatly stacked skulls in a corner of the grim room. It was all so predictable.
With a snap of his fingertips the man summoned a long-stemmed pipe, an ornate box of matches, and a small silk pouch into his outstretched hand. It was a neat trick and Toma clicked her tongue approvingly. She couldn't place the material of the pipe, but the stem was amber. A custom job, probably arcane, it had to have been expensive. Paying no attention to Toma, the man gently packed the bowl of the pipe with a measure of tobacco retrieved from the pouch. He shook the box of matches next to his ear, retrieved a single match, and lit the tobacco with well-practiced ease. Placing the stem of the pipe between his lips he crossed his arms and sent a frenzied trail of smoke rising to the low ceiling.
There was a ravenous hunger in his stare, and Toma felt like she being served up as the main course. Worse, she had the distinct suspicion that the hell spawn was terribly cross with her. It was the agitated way that his tail flicked back and forth behind his back that gave it away.
"Hey, goat face, if you're going to smoke, how about a cigarette for me? Last requests and all," Toma said, summoning all the insolence she could muster.
"I'm afraid that given what transpired last time we provided you with fire, management has decided that it's best you abstain," the reddish hued figure replied with a half-hearted and thoroughly unconvincing shrug. Toma knew he was lying. He could have gotten her almost anything. Anything that might get her to talk. Anything to get her to sign that damn contract. Anything to steal her soul. Anything to tell them where she had hidden it. His boss would have allowed it with some minor grumbling. Hell, he'd probably get a medal. He was just making her suffer. He was just doing it to be cruel. He was just doing it because it made him happy. Of course, she'd never expect anything less from a demon, even if he happened to be a bonafide badge carrying g-man.
"I'm not signing it," Toma snapped back, angrily nodding towards the parchment.
"You do understand what happens if you don't?"
"Listen, Miss Federov.
"Federova," Toma corrected indignantly.
"Miss Federova," the man hissed. With a cruel grin glued to his face, he leaned in across the table and blew a puff of sweet smelling smoke in the young wizard's face. He raised an inhumanely long finger, and tapped against the large folder, stuffed to the brim with papers, that lay next to him. "In light of your past...indiscretionsI would advise you to reconsider. There's only one way you are getting out of here alive and before your hairs turned grey and that's if you start to cooperate-"
"You know, there's only one thing worse than a rat," Toma loudly proclaimed, leaning back in the hard plastic chair to which she was shackled with a smug look on her face. What she wouldn't have given for a key to the strange restraints that they had chained her with. She could feel whatever wards they had woven into the metal burning against the skin of her wrists. Pulses of arcane energy ran through her, and sent a slow throbbing pain running up through her arms. It had subdued any magic that she tried to summon, and she could feel it weakening her. She couldn't so much as transform her pinky. It was going to make her planned escape that much harder.
The bright eyed fiend interrupted Toma with a loud sigh of frustration, and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his fingertips. He readjusted his sunglasses, and with the wave of a hand signaled for her to continue, "Please, Miss Federova, enlighten me."
"As I was saying, there's only one thing worse than a rat, and that's a policeman. You know back in the old country they used to call you lot Suk-"
Toma had no chance to finish what she felt was an exceedingly clever joke. Instead, she felt the sudden breeze of the table soaring past her and then a heavy fist hitting her face. With her hands restrained behind her back Toma could do little to keep her balance, and she fell gracelessly from the chair. Cursing, she curled into a ball as searing pain racked through her, and stars danced rapidly in front of her eyes. Panting, she could feel the cold kiss of the concrete floor against her cheek as blood began to pour from her freshly broken nose.
Two impossibly strong hands grasped her shoulders and she could only manage a low pained groan as she felt the bones in her arms begin to crack from the pressure. Hoisted to her feet, she was thrown back into the uncomfortable chair as if she was nothing more sack of slightly bloody potatoes. She glared at the demon through bitter tears, and spat iron onto the table.
Toma's infernal interrogator laughed and flashed an alarming number of perfectly white, pointed teeth in her direction, "Miss Federova, you are spirited, I will give you that much." He dragged his chair painfully across the tiles, and moved closer to her. An offense that would have been enough reason for Toma to end him, beating notwithstanding. He looked far too pleased with himself, and Toma felt a rising sense of nausea at her predicament. The imp chuckled, and sat down in front of her, carefully readjusting his suit, and artfully avoiding the blood that fell from her nose. "However, I think you've mistaken me for someone that I am not."
"I know who you are, you're a fuc-"
The backhanded slap that struck Toma across the face, though measured, was enough to send the chair and Toma in it skidding across the floor. Dazed, she struggled to focus, her left cheek full of fire. Her only consolation was the pipe that now lay on the floor. She hoped it was broken.
"Allow me to finish," the demonic g-man intoned with a sickening sweetness on the edge of this tongue.
Fate, cruel as always, in Toma's humble view, did not favor the creature, and no sooner had he uttered those choice words than the door to awful room was thrown open. In strode a sharply dressed woman, clearly human, but perhaps not quite mundane in nature if Toma was asked to guess. A lawyer, in all likelihood, and an archivist if she was unlucky.
"Tsk, tsk, Otto, you soulless reaper. You know you weren't supposed to rough her up," the woman began, roughly grabbing a hold of Toma's jaw and inclining the young wizard's head towards the light as she writhed in pain. She didn't seem to pleased with the damage Otto had inflicted and she shook her head slowly from side to side. "Not this much at least. Not yet. What is the boss going to say when he sees her?"
"We're just getting acquainted, aren't we Miss Federova?"
"Acquainted, my ass! I'm going to cut you into pieces you-" Toma railed, almost falling out of her chair as she flailed helplessly against the arcane cuffs. A hand clamped solidly over her mouth and reduced her shouting to a series of muffled shouts and desperate gasps.
"Would you kindly shut up for a moment?" The woman commanded more than asked, her icy voice filled with the promise of certain violence. "Now as I was going to say, the Assistant Director, in his infinite, exceedingly infinite wisdom, has decided to cut you loose, to let you go...to allow you to leave in peace or rather in one piece. For now."
"No," Otto hissed and then practically roared. The words were a curse in his shark-like maw. "You can't be serious, Joanna!? She broke into the Vault, you know what she stole! You know what she did! What she risked!"
"Look, you have a problem with it, you can go tell the boss yourself," the woman countered with a deep-seated frown. She menacingly pointed a finger in the direction of the demon, "However, before you do, you should know that we were contacted by the offices of Priest and Hawthorne. They called the boss himself, on his personal, his personal fucking cellphone," Joanna said, guiding Toma to her feet and slowly leading her towards the door. "Not even I know that number, do you understand?"
Clearly deflated, Otto slowly closed his mouth, but Toma could feel the rage, the pure hatred emanating from his body. Had she not been just had her nose broken the feeling of pleasure that coursed through her would almost have been orgasmic. Toma struggled against the firm grip of the other woman, fighting until she could see the hell spawn again, and then she offered her best smile,"I'll be seeing you around, you goddamned-"
The last thing Toma remembered before the darkness overwhelmed her was Joanna roughly guiding her face straight into the nearest wall. "Of course, if you happened to walk into a wall on the way out, well, that would be a shame now, wouldn't it, Miss Federova?"
The strange, concussion fueled dreams that followed were full of cats, sunshine, and enough acid for a small army. They were wonderful, and for once, even Toma felt content.
Appearance: Sal stands just below average height, and possess the physique of an unexpectedly active wizard. She enjoys swimming and when not spending an evening on the job, she's never far from a dance floor. Her skin is pale, and together with her features serves to obfuscate her origins, and cloak in her mystery. A fact that she takes great pleasure in, and does nothing to resolve. She keeps her hair shoulder length, and dyed a dark purple bordering on midnight blue, with a single long braid wrapped in red silk reaching to the top of her chest. Sal has meticulously maintained eyebrows, and her amber eyes are framed by tasteful, if vaguely Gothic, use of eye shadow and eye liner.
Restless by nature, the conjurer exudes brash confidence and unwavering curiosity, untempered by age, in equal measure.
Sal is modest dresser, favoring black jeans, black t-shirts, canvas sneakers, and at most a warm sweater, unless the weather or the occasion demands differently. She is rarely found outside without an antique silk and gingham umbrella. Framed with beautiful cherry wood, adorned with silver, and possessing an alarmingly sharp tip in the same metallic material the umbrella protects it's bearer from the elements and unwelcome strangers, although Sal would never admit as much.
Age: Sal is in her early twenties, and looks like it.
Powers/Traits: Sal is a mostly-human hedge mage focused on the magical schools of mysticism and conjuration. Following an LSD-fueled journey through the Astral Plane, she has acquired an army of tiny, vaguely monstrous, rowdy, and drunken creatures that generally follow her commands. The creatures are led by a warlord, Gir the Mighty, and appear to be on the cusp of establishing a proper, if exceedingly violent, miniature society. They have yet to fully master fire, but the diminutive creatures have made excellent progress in regards to animal husbandry, and they have managed to train a small number of rats and pigeons to serve as their trusty steeds.
"You could have been so much more," Richard said with a slow shake of his head. He was disappointed. He always was. Working for Bain & Hoyle was slumming it as far as the slightly older wizard was concerned. Proper wizards didn't need to debase themselves, they didn't need to sell their services to the highest bidder, and they certainly didn't need to work as a gloried errand girl.
"Sure, but then I'd have ended up like you," Sal said, taking a lazy drag from what remained of the cigarette she held between her fingertips. She'd quit for the better part of a week, but visits from her brother left precious little resolve left to fight off the nicotine devil that perpetually gnawed at her soul. It was fine. It wasn't a problem. She wasn't some mundane mortal. She'd cast so many protective spells that the greatest danger the carcinogenic cigarette still offered was the yellow stains that it would leave on her finger tips. Still, she felt guilty, at least a bit. She'd promised.
"A famous wizard?"
"A miserable person, a right proper c—."
"Ugh. For once, can you show a bit of class?"
"Nah, we can't all be high class wizards that graduated from some fancy arcane university and made friends with the big-wigs of the veiled world," Sal quipped. "We're not all that insufferable."
"You could have gone, you chose not to."
"It wasn't my scene. Magic shouldn't work that way. It's not about a bunch of formal rules and silly theories, it's a feeling, it's about finding something out for yourself," Sal mused losing herself in the glass of whiskey that she was still nursing.
"Do you always have to be such a bohemian? I swear, you're the definition of a magical hipster," Richard countered, chuckling at his own joke.
"I love annoying you too much to change, dear brother," Sal happily replied, withdrawing another cigarette from the packet that she had tossed on the table minutes earlier, and lighting another cigarette with well-practiced ease. Savoring the sweet, sweet nicotine kiss that enveloped her good feels, Sal did her best to pretend her brother wasn't there. They'd had this conversation before, it was a familiar dance. Her brother would mention that her parents were worried. He'd offer to use some of his connections. He'd offer her a job, after a nice vacation of course. She'd say no, of course. Just like she had done every other time. And just like she would do every other time in the future. She wasn't going back, not now, not ever. There was too much to see, too many planes to explore, and too much to discover.
Contemplating the whiskey that she sipped from a dirty enough glass, Sal could not help but notice that Richard watched the small creatures that she had brought with her with palatable disgust, and an ugly sneer on his lips. He was never very good with new people, much less inhuman creatures, she remembered sadly. He was far too conventional. A magical yuppie, a financial district wizard, through and through. Pure torture. Sal had to bury her laughter in her drink as her brother pulled his hand away with a sudden jolt. One of the creatures had moved closer to examine the glass of wine that the wizard had ordered but left untouched.
"Should they really be here?" he fumed. "This isn't some zoo, you know."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry. The bartender is a troll, this is place that uninitiated mortals do not wander into, not even by accident," Sal asserted, ignoring the implication that her new friends had no place in the dive bar. She resented the very idea. What was a dive bar if didn't welcome a tribe of extraplaner monsters, tiny as they were, past it's warded doors? Standards had no place in fine establishments like Gruzgob's Bar and Restaurant. After all, if cockroaches were tolerated, if not openly welcomed, then Sal's new friends deserved at least to be treated like particularly rowdy and dangerous customers.
"Mmm, I don't know," Sal honestly answered, blowing a cloud of smoke in front of her. "Not entirely. I found them. Didn't have time to ask too many question."
"You found them?"
"Yes," Sal grumbled. "That's what I said."
"Where did you find them?"
"No idea," Sal answered apathetically as she carefully handed, Gir, Gir the Mighty as he preferred to be called, what remained of her whiskey. The glass was nearly as tall as he was, but it didn't appear to slow him down. Sal had quickly learned that the warlord and his followers were very amendable to all forms of alcohol-based diplomacy. It was best to keep them drinking. Otherwise they had a nasty habit of finding troublesome activities to occupy their attentions.
"How do you bring creatures into the Material Plane and forget where you found them?!"
"I can't be certain, at least not entirely, but I think it was the two tabs of magically infused LSD I took before I hopped dimensions that did it."
"I had no idea that the acid would be that strong. Last time, they weren't half as potent. Well, whatever," Sal concluded philosophically, waving a hand in the air as kaleidoscope memories of the psychedelic drip rushed over her. "As it turns out, extraplanar travel is much harder when you are completely blasted out of your mind..."
"You're a child."
"You're just jealous, bet you haven't even crossed the planes, yet, Mr. I'm-A-Proper-Fucking-Wizard," Sal jeered. She wasn't going to be lectured by some schoolboy wizard, not this time.
"Of course not, as you know extraplanar travels is heavily restricted," Richard scoffed, sulking. Sal could sense that the advantage had shifted, and she smiled. With the grin still teasing at the edge of her mouth, she watched as one of the small creatures throw a sharpened toothpick it had fashioned into a spear into a cockroach that had crawled onto the bar counter-top. The tiny monster shouted out a battle cry as it pounced on the languishing insect that was impaled against the wood. Sal couldn't help but laugh at the spectacle, and was happy to see that her unwelcome companion recoiled with disgust at the violent scene unfolding on the countertop.
"What vile monsters."
"I think they're cute," Sal countered. "You're paying right?" She asked, blowing a cloud of smoke into Richard's face as she stood without waiting and headed towards the door. She'd had enough of sibling bonding. The tiny extraplaner monsters scrambled after her.
Sal didn't stop, and once Gir and his followers had made it outside, she let the door shut loudly behind. Alone with the tribe of monsters, a smile played briefly across her lips as she strode down the dark and empty street.
Despite her good mood, she had a terrible, certain feeling that she'd receive a text from Atticus any moment now, asking her to come in to the office, telling her there was work to be done.
She hated working.
It was too bad that she still had the month's rent to pay.
A humble cog in a very clever and beautiful watch, perhaps.
[hider=The Tyger - William Blake]
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
<div style="white-space:pre-wrap;">A humble cog in a very clever and beautiful watch, perhaps.<br><br><div class="hider-panel"><div class="hider-heading"><button type="button" class="btn btn-default btn-xs hider-button" data-name="The Tyger - William Blake">The Tyger - William Blake [+]</button></div><div class="hider-body" style="display: none">Tyger Tyger, burning bright, <br>In the forests of the night; <br>What immortal hand or eye, <br>Could frame thy fearful symmetry?<br><br>In what distant deeps or skies, <br>Burnt the fire of thine eyes?<br>On what wings dare he aspire?<br>What the hand, dare seize the fire?<br><br>And what shoulder, & what art,<br>Could twist the sinews of thy heart?<br>And when thy heart began to beat,<br>What dread hand? & what dread feet?<br><br>What the hammer? what the chain, <br>In what furnace was thy brain?<br>What the anvil? what dread grasp, <br>Dare its deadly terrors clasp! <br><br>When the stars threw down their spears <br>And water'd heaven with their tears: <br>Did he smile his work to see?<br>Did he who made the Lamb make thee?<br><br>Tyger Tyger burning bright, <br>In the forests of the night: <br>What immortal hand or eye,<br>Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?</div></div></div>